On choosing a door and knowing why
When I was young and studying, the motto I kept hearing from my parents was “do well at school”, “don’t close any doors”. The path was clear: go to a good university, get a good job and a good salary, so you can be independent. And that was the thing that mattered, not much else.
I studied business without any real idea of what it actually was and accepted the first job that came my way when I graduated. Not that I regret it, but that’s the honest story.
It’s funny because I studied business as a way of not closing any doors, because it was the path that kept the most opportunities open. But this was a lie. It did close doors. Just not doors that felt important or relevant to my environment.
When I was a kid, my family members would joke that I would become a salesperson, selling either bread or cats, because I loved both. I still do. I don’t sell them. I keep them to myself. (French bread that is). I’m a terrible salesperson. But I wonder how that picture that was painted around me since my childhood led me to eventually study business.
So here I was, on my generic path to independence. And I focused on that for a few years, until I reached a point where, looking back, I felt I was pretty much independent enough. I had proved whatever it was that I needed to prove to myself (and possibly others), and now that I didn’t have this need anymore, my entire drive changed.
And that change was not comfortable. I felt a deep void. The thing is, by always keeping doors open - as I had continued with the same philosophy in my career - I actually never purposefully went through one. I never chose, I never said no, I never created opportunities for myself. I was piggybacking. I was passive in my life. I had no idea who I was, where I was nor why I was.
And when I reached that point, I started to want something different but had no idea what, nor how to make those decisions. Choosing the most logical path did not make sense for me anymore. I needed Meaning. Purpose. A sense of inner accomplishment. But I found none of that around me, because this wasn’t how I had built my life so far.
I wanted something different, and I had no idea what it looked like. I started noticing and questioning the gaps between what I wanted and the trajectory I had been on. I faced personal decisions around building a family in my late 30s and that opened my eyes even more, on how, by not choosing a door, but simply going along, everything was not remaining as open as I thought it was, and I was left with more questions than opportunities.
Eventually, with much ado and reflection, I started to see that there were doors I wanted to open, and doors I wanted to leave behind. I was starting to explore my own genuine inner wants, dreams.
Figuring out your inner path is not a smooth and easy experience. It’s an emotionally charged roller-coaster. When you reach a particular down, everything is amplified and more intense. Things start to become overwhelming and it becomes harder to ignore or explain away the gaps. I couldn’t see the doors anymore and I was bumping against the walls in search of them. The constructs of what society had intended for me had broken down and it felt like everything was becoming too much. Just like a butterfly breaks the cocoon it had built as a caterpillar.
Maybe you can’t choose a door as a caterpillar. Maybe that comfortable cocoon around you is restricting your movements, preventing you from trying something else. Maybe you need to be a butterfly and have wings to be able to fly through a door. And when that process was over for me, that is what I did. I chose.
I chose what felt right. But I didn’t choose blindly. I didn’t choose definitively and didn’t sign with my blood that this is what I would be doing until the end of my days. I chose what I wanted to give a try at and accepted that it may or may not work. And should that not work, then there would be another door to choose. Or maybe my life will take a different path, and things will have to change.
But now I know how to pick a door. And I know it’s important that I do choose. And that I know why I chose it. And I know that you can’t keep all doors opened (let alone go through all of them), so you might as well choose one you want.
I was an aimless drifter. Then I realised all this drifting had led me nowhere and I was lost. Embracing that reality and the necessity of change led me to reinvent myself. It wouldn’t have mattered at this point what I chose: do something different, go back to what I was doing or a mix of the two. The process of facing that change and choosing a path with conviction was the real key. In the end, this was so transformative that I am now helping my clients go through their own versions of that change and find their own way.